Should the US pursue diplomacy with Russia over the Ukraine?


Shifron, 10-30, 22, Joshua Shifrinson is an associate professor with the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, a senior fellow with the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, and a non-resident senior fellow with the Cato Institute, What Is America’s Interest in the Ukraine War?,

Servicing these more limited objectives requires meaningful adjustments to current U.S. policy. In practice, limiting the risk of spillover and an irrevocable collapse in relations means bringing the conflict to a timely end without drawing the United States further into the contest. Given the battlefield distribution of power and Russia’s apparent willingness—as Putin’s recent mobilization orders and threat to use nuclear weapons emphasize—to tolerate large costs for the sake of its conflict, this means applying significant pressure on Kyiv to negotiate with Russia while engaging Moscow to foster a diplomatic deal to end the conflict. In doing so, the United States would have to turn away from its stated deference to Kyiv’s war aims and toward a policy that would create incentives for ending the war and disincentives for its continuation for both Kyiv and Moscow. By the same token, the United States would also need to find a way of reopening dialogue with Moscow and give Russia sufficient inducements to end the conflict.

Critics will charge that this course sells out Ukraine, rewards Russian aggression and nuclear brinksmanship, and does nothing to prevent Russia from biding its time before re-invading Ukraine. These charges are at least partly true. Still, two points are important. On one level, again, the United States has minimal interests in what happens in or to Ukraine per se; if Ukraine were central to the balance of power, this would change—but it isn’t. Accordingly, as tragic as it would be to witness future Russian aggression against Ukraine, it would be a still greater tragedy if the United States ends up in conflict with Russia or facilitating the rise of a true Eurasian hegemon by misallocating its time and resources. By the same token, this would hardly be the first time when a reassessment of U.S. interests and priorities led the United States to compel partners and allies into making harsh sacrifices while dealing with real or potential aggressors. Similar policies, for instance, were behind the U.S. push to end the Vietnam War, to divide Cold War Germany, and to foster different Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli deals. Not all of these contests ended with the United States’ preferred party “winning” at the diplomatic table (or, in South Vietnam’s case, surviving). Nevertheless, just as the United States saw its own interests preserved in these prior episodes, so too may its fairly limited interests in Ukraine be advanced by deploying a similar playbook.

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